NHS waiting list in England hits record 5.45 millionon August 12, 2021 at 10:41 am

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Hospitals are working through the backlog – but some patients are waiting more than two years.

Surgeons operating

image sourceGetty Images

A record number of people – more than 5.45 million – are waiting for NHS hospital treatment in England.

The June figures show a mixed picture – with the numbers waiting more than 18 weeks or a year both down, but a rise in those waiting more than two years.

Many have joined the waiting list in recent weeks, as more people are referred for treatment.

NHS England’s Prof Stephen Powis said the summer had seen some of the highest numbers ever coming forward for care.

And he said the health service had made “effective use” of the additional resources it had been given to address the Covid backlog.

The data published today also shows:

  • The number waiting to start treatment is the highest it has been since records began in August 2007
  • 5.45 million waiting for procedures – up from 5.3 million in May
  • 2.16 million people were treated in A&E departments in July compared with 2.15 million in June
  • Ambulances across England answered more than a million calls in July – and waiting times were the longest since a new way of logging calls was introduced in 2017

But in signs of progress, the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for care has dropped by almost 25,000 to 1.7 million.

The number having to wait more than a year to start treatment was 304,803 in June – down from 336,733 the previous month

Chris Hopson of NHS Providers told the BBC the NHS was “going at full pelt” to try to get through the backlog.

But he added: “They’re having to cope with the fact that we’re 8,000 beds short compared to the normal number of beds we have because of infection control, and we’ve got large numbers of staff self-isolating.

“We’re also in the peak leave period and we’ve got very large numbers of people coming in for urgent and emergency care – and we’ve still got 5,000 Covid patients in hospital beds.”

He said a long-term funding settlement was vital.

Prof Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said a “volatile mix of pressures”, including Covid control measures and staff shortages due to pinging, was hindering the NHS’s ability to address the surgery backlog.

Of the 5,727 patients waiting more than two years for treatment – a 46% increase on the previous month – the RCS says most need hip and knee replacements, gallbladder removals or hernia operations.

It warns some may be unable to work, or carry out day-to-day tasks, while they wait for their procedures.

Some have warned the number on waiting lists could rise much further, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warning it could rise to 14m by the end of 2022.

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